MyHeritage’s New Photo Tool Adds Life to Old Pictures

Updates: MyHeritage has just announced that it’s new color tool will be free until April 22 on account of the coronavirus keeping so many people home. They also changed their subscription model so there’s now a slightly more affordable subscription option if you want access to it forever. Have fun!
Sometime earlier this week, I received a promotional email from MyHeritage, an website where you can upload and maintain your family tree online. I normally ignore their emails because they send so many, but a distant cousin had reached out to me on their site just last week and subsequently helped answer a family mystery (more on that later!), so I’ve been curious about what MyHeritage has to offer me. I opened the email.


MyHeritage just released MyHeritage In Color (TM), and it’s amazing. You can upload any black and white photo (even if you’ve patched it up in Photoshop, messed with the contrast, and applied a filter like yours truly does frequently), and an algorithm works in the background to transform the photo into color.

Apparently, there’s some room for error in terms of pixel color, but I’ve been really pleased with the photos I’ve run through the system. I have run into a few glitches with files not being recognized or the processor erroring out, but it seems to work more often than not.

MyHeritage does include a small icon on the bottom left to indicate the photo has been colorized to preserve historical integrity and a MyHeritage logo on the bottom right if you don’t have their Complete subscription ($209 annually for the first year and $299 annually after that – I know. Wowza! Probably this is why I haven’t delved into this site much before now.).

Obviously, releasing this tool is an incredibly smart move by MyHeritage, since photos are social currency online these days and most of us have very little incentive to upload our personal ancestry photos otherwise. Kudos to whoever came up with the idea.

It’s worth noting that they currently erect their paywall at 10 photos, so choose wisely unless you’re ready to sell your house and do the annual subscription.

I decided to try some of the oldest photos and some group photos I have since they would be the most fun to see in color. Here’s what I got back.

Happy coloring!


Family Tree for Our Wedding

Our wedding was wonderful and a complete whirlwind, and the one extra project I decided to take on was to create family trees to put side by side to illustrate our families joining. I’ve done so much research over the years, and Brian’s mom, Caroline, has done even more for his side, so how hard could it be?

Right. Well, it turns out it can be pretty hard.

I didn’t know of an out-of-the-box program or app, so I decided to jump into Adobe Illustrator, which I really haven’t used since I was in college. I found some cool vector images on iStock for a tree for the background and men/women silhouettes for placeholders.

It took a ton of work, and as I was putting them together, I used gray silhouettes for the ancestors we didn’t know enough about – no names or partial names. I was sad to see so clearly that for several branches back on my dad’s side, I didn’t know much.

I grew up with the last name Gullickson, but I didn’t have any firm details about the Norwegian side of my ancestry. In fact, I only knew my great-great-grandparents’ names because I pulled up census records.

Then, out of the blue almost a year ago, I received a message on from a gentleman in Norway who was researching what happened to Theodore Gullickson and who had quite a lot of information about the family from before they immigrated to the U.S. because he’s been researching families in Luster, Norway for many years.

If you’re like me, you live for these kinds of emails! I absolutely love to hear from relatives or relatives of relatives who know more than I do and who want to share information. I only get maybe one every couple years, but it’s always thrilling. I imagine it’s similar to being a detective and feeling like you just got a big break on your case.

This gentleman shared the names of ancestors I had never heard of — Ole Gullickson, Anna Anderson, Zacharias Anderson, and Martha Erickson (I love this last name, because my dad had always said we were somehow related to Lief Erickson, so maybe that tidbit of family lore is true!).

AND this gentleman even knew how Demetra (Demetri, David) Gullickson came to travel to the U.S. with Christine Anderson — he was her son and his father was a Russian sailor! What a romantic story, although perhaps also tragic.

This gentleman was asking if I had ever heard of Theodore Gullickson, David Gullickson, or Oscar Gullickson. They dropped off census records after 1905, and even when Theodore’s mother passed away, no one back in Norway heard from him after 1906. One rumor that this gentleman was following up on was that they all perished in the 1906 earthquake, but I had never heard that rumor out here and a lot of my dad’s side of the family lived in San Francisco for decades, so I feel like that’s a story that would have stayed alive were it true. If anyone happens to know what did became of Theodore, David, or Oscar, please share in the comments!

I plan to do some more research on the Norwegian side of the family, and update you all on what I find.

I’ll conclude this post by saying that the hardest part of creating these family trees for the wedding was actually printing them. So, if you’re interested in making your own for a wedding or a family reunion, I highly recommend starting well ahead of time and using a reliable printer. I had thought our local big-box office supply location would have been able to handle it, but they ended up unapologetically botching it twice. Not that I’m holding a resentment. I’m definitely letting that one go.

Statica en Dynamica

Before he passed away recently, my great uncle, Morris Kool, passed a couple ancestry items on to me. This one, “Statica en Dynamica,” is a real gem. My great-grandfather, Cornelis Kool, earned a doctorate (I believe in economics) and his thesis was this book from 1935. I’ll include some photos here of the cover, inscription, first few pages, and insert.

Researching the Dominguez Family (Part 1)

In planning a trip to Spain for next year, I thought it would be fun to research where in the country my family, the Dominguez family, is from. Turns out, it’s a tall order! While census records from San Francisco in 1920, 1930, and 1940 were very enlightening, I have not been able to find any written documents pinpointing an exact city where my great-grandfather Benito Dominguez and his relatives may have lived prior to coming to the United States.

Family lore has always said Benito immigrated from the Cadiz province in the Andalusia region of Spain, but I have not been able to find any supporting documentation. He was born in Spain about 1885-1886 (that much, census records can confirm), and he came to Honolulu, Hawaii, in about 1910, when sugar cane plantation workers were coming from Spain and Portugal en mass.

In about 1908, he married his first wife, Rita Borrego, and they had several children over the years:

  • son Benito Dominguez Jr. was born about 1911-1912 in Hawaii
  • daughter Theresa Dominguez was born about 1912-1913 in Hawaii
  • daughter Mary Dominguez was born about 1917-1918 in Hawaii
  • daughter Antonette Dominguez was born about 1918-1919 in California
  • I also found a death record index on for a Jose Dominguez, son of a Rita Berreio and a Benito Domingnez, in 1917. He was 2.

They eventually moved to San Francisco, which is where Antonette would have been born and where Rita died. Following his wife’s death, Benito remarried fairly quickly to my great-grandmother Mary Menacho. He would have been about 34 and she would have been 15, so times were different to say the least! According to census records, she was born in about 1904 and also immigrated to Hawaii in 1910. My grandmother Carmen says Mary was from the same area in Spain as my great-grandfather.

They had 10 children:

  • son John Dominguez was born about 1920 in California
  • son Tony Dominguez was born about 1924 in California
  • daughter Francis was born about 1925 in California
  • son James Dominguez was born about 1926 in California
  • son Frank Dominguez was born about 1927 in California
  • son August (sometimes recorded Gustave, but he went by Gus) was born about 1928 in California
  • son Vincent was born about 1929 in California
  • son Fred was born about 1931-1932 in California
  • daughter Carmen was born on October 10, 1932 in California
  • daughter Justine “Josie” was born about 1935-1936 in California

In the 1920 Census, Benito Sr. was listed as working as a fruit picker in an orchard and his wife Rita was a laborer in a junk shop in San Francisco. They lived on 152 Langton Street in San Francisco.

In the 1930 Census, Benito was listed as a bottle washer who worked at a dairy company and Benito Jr. was listed as a butcher. Theresa worked as a laborer. They lived on 53 Chesley Street in San Francisco, which is in the same neighborhood as Langton Street, and paid $20 a month rent.

In the 1940 Census, Mary was now the head of house and no occupations were listed as the eldest child at home was Francis, who was 15 years old. They lived at 2442 24th Street in San Francisco, where they paid $25 rent per month.

Also in the 1940 Census, a 14-year-old James Dominguez was listed as living with his grandmother, also named Mary Menacho, in Santa Clara. She was 65. He, his uncles Fred, Tony, Johnnie and Philip, and his cousin Johnnie Mendez worked as laborers. Fred worked at a wholesale packing house, Tony and Johnnie worked at a wholesale canning facility, and the young cousins worked with wholesale dried fruit. Together, they paid $12.50 rent per month for a place on Bellomy Street. Most of them had education up to either 7th or 8th grade, except James, who stopped school in 4th grade.

Also in the 1940 Census, Benito Jr. was listed as living with his wife and daughter at his in-laws’ place at 1200 27th Avenue. Joseph Bradway was the head of the house, his wife’s name was Lucy and their son’s name was George. Benito Jr.’s wife, Marian, was 22 and he was 28 and the owner of his own butcher shop. Their daughter Francine was just 3 years old. The families paid $57.50 per month for rent.

If anyone has some exact birth dates or additional details, I would love to know them. Of course I’ve met many of these people over the years, but as a child, I didn’t think to ask anyone when they were born, let alone make note of it.

Photo: Vargas Sisters mid-20th Century

Vargas sisters mid-20th Century. (Photo courtesy of Cousin Carmen Vargas.)

Vargas sisters mid-20th Century. (Photo courtesy of Cousin Carmen Vargas.)

The Vargas sisters (from left): Carmen, Genoveva “Geno,” Luz “Lucy,” Nieves “Nancy,” and Consuleo “Chelo.”

Photo of Guadalupe Vargas Marin and Tony Morman

Guadalupe Vargas Marin  and Tony Morman. (Photo courtesy of Cousin Carmen Vargas)

Guadalupe Vargas Marin and Tony Morman. (Photo courtesy of Cousin Carmen Vargas)

This is a photo of Guadalupe “Lupe” Vargas Marin and Tony Morman, whom she married on October 27, 1926, in Harris County, Texas. I have very little information about Guadalupe. She was born on December 9, 1909, in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, to Candelaria Marin Hernandez and Mariano Vargas Ramos, and she died of meningitis at the age of 22. I don’t believe she had any children.

Bio: Atenogenes Vargas Marin

Atenogenes Vargas

Atenogenes Vargas (Photo courtesy Carmen Vargas.)

Atenogenes Vargas Marin was born the first son to Candelaria Marin Hernandez and Mariano Vargas Ramos on July 16, 1901, in Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico. The eldest of nine, he was an adventurous soul and family lore says he was named from a Greek calendar that Candelaria and Mariano had.

At 13, he decided he wanted to join the Mexican Revolution, so he ran off to water their horses when Pancho Villa came through town. Candelaria was firm that he was not to join and sent Mariano after Atenogenes to drag him back home.

Three years later, Atenogenes was off again, this time hopping trains and essentially backpacking into the Western United States. Atenogenes stepped off the train in the U.S. for the first time outside the new jail that had just been built in Gilroy, California. He continued on as far as Montana, where he ended up out of money and hungry from not having eaten for three days. It was freezing cold and a (in his own words) “white man” took pity on him.

After a time, he returned to Mexico, where he ended up working as a policeman, and then he eventually immigrated to California with the rest of the family in 1925. There, he worked as a machinist’s assistant, a Merchant Marine, and in a candle factory in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Atenogenes Vargas

Atenogenes Vargas

He married Alma Reyegonda, who was haunted by a tragic past for much of her life. When she was 18, she played Ding Dong Ditch on her mom. They lived in a two-story apartment at the time, and the second time her mother came downstairs to answer the door, she fell down the stairs and suffered a broken neck. After two weeks in the hospital, Alma’s mother passed away.

As was popular during the era, Atenogenes and Alma liked to drink and stay out late. Before long, they had three children: Art Vargas, Rose Vargas, and Carmen Vargas, all who still live in California.

On a trip to Ameca in 1972, Atenogenes sought out his old stomping grounds and found his long-lost aunt, Maria Marin, who was sitting alone in her home, which lead to a heartwarming reunion. Cousin Carmen has kept this photo of them for some years:

Atenogenes and mysterious cousin. (Photo courtesy Cousin Carmen Vargas)

Atenogenes and mysterious cousin. (Photo courtesy Cousin Carmen Vargas)

Atenogenes eventually died of pneumonia in 1980.

1930s Photo of Candelaria Marin Hernandez and Mariano Vargas Ramos

Candelaria and Mariano Vargas

Candelaria and Mariano Vargas in 1930. (Photo courtesy Cousin Carmen Vargas.)

Candelaria Marin Hernandez and Mariano Vargas Ramos were born in Mexico and came to the United States after their children had immigrated and become established (family lore says that Candelaria insisted on moving after the birth of her first grandchild, George Gullicksen).

I wrote about them before, after seeing a great portrait of them hanging on the wall at Cousin Rose’s house. This photograph is from Rose’s sister, Cousin Carmen, from when we had a get-together ancestry day and swapped stories and photographs.

Candelaria was born in Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico in about 1869 and she died of uterine cancer in San Jose, California, on August 19, 1930.

Mariano was also born in Ameca in November, 1870. When they lived in Mexico, he was a door-to-door salesman and also sold goods out of a small shop on the side of their home. He died during surgery for a bladder infection in Mexico City, D.F. on February 14, 1931.

They would have been married before their first child, Atenogenes, was born in 1901; although, I do not have an exact date. They had nine children over a span of 19 years: Atenojenes (1901), Carmen (1906), Genoveba (1907), Guadalupe (1909), Consuelo (1912), Nieves aka Nancy (1914), Luz aka Lucy (1918), Alfonso (1919), and Luis (1920).